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24 February ’22 Wrap: A strong budget points SA in the right direction

We’ll take good news wherever we can get it and SA’s latest budget plan has us cautiously optimistic. But we’re super worried about Europe, as Russia has officially attacked Ukraine after months of threats. This has huge repercussions for the global economy, including here in SA. We also explain the confusing situation around controversial Judge John Hlophe and, bad news, explain why you will probably have to stop using your friend’s DStv streaming password. 😆

So, let’s dive into your weekly update of empowering and easy-to-understand news, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the explain.co.za team. 😄

Format

🔊 For the audio version of The Wrap, go here:

🗞 For text, keep scrolling or check out our PDF below.

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▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ 1. OUR TAKE: BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivered his maiden budget speech at the Cape Town City Hall yesterday. The budget speech follows the president’s state of the nation address and seeks to make “financial” good on the promises he announced. It’s kind of like the CFO telling us how he’s going to make the CEO’s plans a reality. 😄 There were no fireworks but Godongwana’s offering deserves some praise. 

Here are the highlights:   

▪️ Income tax will not increase and, for the first time since 1990, there will be no increase to the general fuel levy on petrol and diesel or the Road Accident Levy – these factors, among others, contribute to the increase in the petrol price. Plus the minister said they will review how the price of petrol is structured, as we’ve previously called for. Finally! 😅

▪️ SA’s grant system is one of the most sophisticated in the world and keeps millions from extreme poverty, while effectively sharing the pie in a very unequal country. The Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD), introduced in May 2020 to provide financial support to nearly 10 million South Africans, will be extended to the end of March 2023 but will stay at R350 per month. Godongwana said the grant extension will cost the economy R44bn, but that it could be “comfortably” accommodated thanks to a healthy commodities boom and unexpected tax revenue windfall last year.  Social development will receive R58.6bn over the medium term to cover other grants. The elephant in the room is still the universal basic income grant, which activists have long lobbied for, but which the government says its finances can’t cover yet. 

▪️ The price of alcohol and tobacco increased between 4.5 and 6.5 percent on Wednesday. 

That means: 

  • A 340ml can of beer or cider will cost 11c more;
  • A 750ml bottle of wine will be 17c more expensive; 
  • A bottle of sparkling wine will cost an additional 76c;
  • A packet of cigarettes will cost an additional R1.03. 

▪️ The economy is in good financial standing, thanks to tax revenues exceeding expectations by R181 billion last year. We really have that commodities boom to thank for lifting our economy, but as we previously pointed out, it’s temporary. Still, the windfall gains can be used to stimulate the economy and protect the poor, while policymakers do their best to sustain the wins. 🤞🏽

As Daily Maverick’s Sasha Planting points out: “All in all, this is a budget that can’t easily be criticised. Treasury has done what it can to create an environment conducive to returning business confidence and investment. Now it’s up to the line departments to execute the structural reforms that will really move the needle on economic growth.” 🌱

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ *2. THE BIG STORY:* UKRAINE AND RUSSIA AT WAR  

It’s happened. 

Last week we had told you that many in Ukraine had breathed a sigh of relief when the looming war with Russia was delayed. But by Tuesday, things had already started heating up: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he formally recognised separatist regions of Ukraine led by pro-Russian rebels, further provoking his neighbour. Russia then sent troops into those territories to “protect” them in what Putin called a “peacekeeping mission”. 

Today many parts of the world, including South Africa, woke up to news that Russia had invaded parts of Ukraine and launched missiles at cities, including the capital, Kyiv. Putin said in a live television broadcast that his aim was the “de-Nazification of Ukraine” and that if other countries tried to interfere, there might be “consequences they have never seen”. Moments after the broadcast, Russian forces fired missiles at several Ukrainian cities. By about 3pm today 40 Ukrainian soldiers and ten civilians had reportedly been killed. 😣

As we explained last week: Tensions have ratcheted up since Russia amassed 130 000 troops at the Ukrainian border late last year, sparking alarm over Europe’s bloodiest conflict in decades. Russia has long stewed about its former Soviet republic Ukraine becoming increasingly friendly with the west and potentially joining NATO –  a military alliance of more than 30 Western countries started after World War 2. This would threaten Russia’s dominance in the region. 

 In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine as part of the ongoing conflict between the two. 

The US and UK have condemned Putin’s latest actions and many countries are urging their citizens to either take cover or move out of the war zones. At the time of writing NATO was (urgently, we hope!) deciding how to respond.

Ukraine has asked the United Nations to step in and do anything possible to stop the war. It has also asked the international community to “act immediately”, starting with new sanctions against Russia and military equipment to support its defence. We watch and wait. 😓

▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ *BRIEFS*

3. DStv cracks down on password sharing

DStv subscribers are an unhappy lot this week after parent company MultiChoice announced that it will limit online video streaming across Africa from its platform to one device at a time. 💁🏽‍♀️ It’s trying to crack down on password sharing and piracy – so, no more streaming MasterChef on your tablet while your spouse watches football on their computer. You may be able to have four registered devices per account but you can only watch TV with your decoder and stream to a single internet-enabled device at the same time. You can, however, download content for offline viewing on your other registered devices. The change will come into effect on 22 March (oh, and price changes are due in April 😑). The new policy won’t affect Showmax, a streaming service also owned by MultiChoice. The company recently launched its new Showmax Pro package in SA, offering subscribers an expanded version of the streaming service with a limited selection of live sport, entertainment and news.

So what now? Showmax and Netflix are great for certain content, but many people keep DStv for its premium live sports offering. But the market is rapidly changing, as Twitter’s self-proclaimed “Go-To Finance Bro”, fintech guru Koshiek Karan pointed out recently. There are tons of online streaming subscription apps, or IPTVs, available these days. They include sports channels and are WAY cheaper than DStv, which is based on an outdated business model. BUT you need to do your homework: some IPTVs have a dizzying number of channels you may never need. 🤓

4. SA mourns rapper Riky Rick

At 03:20 on 23 February 2022 Rikhado ‘Riky Rick’ Muziwendlovu Makhado tweeted “I’ll return a stronger man. This land is still my home”. At first glance he was referencing his song “Home” – but, a few hours later, the 34-year-old rapper and businessman’s family announced his death and asked for privacy as they grieve. It has been widely speculated that he took his own life but this has not been confirmed. Makhado had spoken in interviews about his struggles with depression and anxiety but said he didn’t like to talk about it too much in case it made people think they had to treat him differently. 💔 We have a long way to go when it comes to tackling mental health stigmas in this country. 

Makhado was widely hailed for his love and support of young talent. His 2015 debut studio album “Family Values” was certified platinum by the Recording Industry of South Africa and contained such hits as “Nafukwa”. He was a lover of urban culture and fashion and founded the hip-hop festival Cotton Fest; just a few weeks ago he was celebrating the festival’s return after a Covid-enforced hiatus. 

He is survived by his wife, two children, mother and five siblings. Rest in perfect peace, King Kotini. 🕊️

5. Hlophe still fighting misconduct ruling  

John Hlophe, the Judge President of the Western Cape division of the high court, has been a controversial figure for years and he’s still at it. 

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is not just responsible for interviewing potential judges; it’s also tasked with disciplining existing judges. Last year the body found Hlophe guilty of gross misconduct for trying to sway Constitutional Court Justices Bess Nkabinde and Chris Jafta in 2008 to make judgments in favour of then presidential-hopeful, Jacob Zuma, over the arms deal trial. It recommended that parliament begin a process of impeaching Hlophe – a first for a sitting judge in democratic SA. 😶

Justice Mandisa Maya, currently Judge President of the Supreme Court of Appeal and the forerunner for the position of Chief Justice, should have been part of that disciplinary proceedings, per the Constitution. But she recused herself because of what she described as a “close relationship” with Hlophe. This came up in her recent interviews for the top justice job. 

Well, Hlophe is using this to delay justice. He is in court appealing the JSC’s finding against him, saying Maya’s recusal means the process was unfair and unconstitutional. The Constitution makes it clear that should the SCA Judge President be unavailable their deputy should stand in. But neither Maya nor her deputy were available so they sent another SCA judge. 🤷🏽‍♀️

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, representing the JSC in court, argued that while the Constitution does not say who should stand in if a deputy isn’t available, the court should interpret the law in a practical way or risk judges evading accountability on a technicality. 

Court adjourned last week and we’re not sure when we’ll hear the judgment. But if it’s not in Hlophe’s favour, he’ll likely appeal, delaying impeachment. The scary part is he continues in his powerful role as the Western Cape’s Judge President.

As Business Day puts it: “The man who once likened himself to Jacob Zuma in that both were targets of persecution clearly shares another of the former president’s qualities: the ability to evade accountability.”

6. Important update on Covid booster shots

The wait has been shortened for those of you longing to get the Covid-19 booster shot or the third Covid-19 vaccine. The mandate to change the intervals between jabs was announced on Monday and came into effect yesterday. You can now get your booster shot three months after receiving your last vaccination, not six months as was previously the case. Plus, the duration between the first and second shot has been reduced from 42 days to 21 days. But if you contract Covid-19, you should wait at least 30 days before getting vaccinated. ☝🏽

Other significant news is that we ARE allowed to mix vaccines. If you received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine you can get a Johnson & Johnson booster shot after three months, while a Pfizer booster can be administered 60 days after the first Johnson & Johnson shot.

Several studies have found that mixing and matching vaccines or “heterologous booster doses” can elicit both a stronger immune response and higher resistance against the virus, as cited in a US study: “…heterologous boosts elicited similar or higher antibody responses than those who received a homologous [same doses] booster. However, both boosting approaches were effective and  had a good safety profile.”

That’s another win for science, so guns out, guys. 💪🏽It’s time to get your next shot! 

7. SA on alert for typhoid fever

Typhoid fever sounds like something from the history books, but it still plagues many developing countries, particularly India. Now there’s an outbreak in SA: news emerged over the weekend of four cluster outbreaks in parts of the North West and Western Cape. But you really don’t have to panic despite those alarming WhatsApp messages you’ve probably been receiving. 🤕 This isn’t our first rodeo with the nasty bacterial disease, which has become far less of a threat in the last century because of improved sanitation and the use of antibiotics. A 2005 outbreak in Mpumalanga exceeded 2500 cases. SA’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that in 2020 and 2021, there were cases of the disease in eight of our nine provinces, and that the current cases were apparently minor compared to outbreaks in other sub-Saharan countries over the years. 

Experts say that contaminated municipal water did not cause the latest outbreak as some have suggested. Instead, it comes down to “poor sanitation and poor distribution of clean water, more so to poor communities”, City Press reported, adding that we need to repair deteriorating water sanitation infrastructure.⚒️ In related news, a child from Kariega in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality died earlier after reportedly drinking tap water containing E.coli, another bacteria that can be found in contaminated water or food. The area’s mayor said low dam levels were affecting the quality of water, which residents say is brown. Investigations are underway to find the root of the issue. 

8. Knock knock, your groceries are at your door 

The pandemic transformed how we worked, socialised – and shopped for groceries. Retailers dramatically upped their game so customers could avoid crowds; we’re grateful that we never again have to push a squeaky trolley with a wonky wheel down a cold aisle looking at wilted lettuce.😜 And the race between different stores to capture the market is ramping up. After Checkers’ successful launch of the Checkers Sixty60 delivery service in 2019, Pick n Pay and Woolworths followed suit in 2020. Now Spar will launch SPAR2U next month though the service (which includes groceries and liquor) will only be available for selected stores in Gauteng’s northern suburbs during its trial phase. 

How are its competitors doing? Checkers’ Sixty60, which promises delivery within an hour, is by far the most popular; it has cheaper deals and greater coverage, with services stretching across the country (though most of its stores are concentrated in Joburg, Cape Town and eThekwini). 

Pick n Pay launched its delivery service after partnering with Bottles, an alcohol delivery app, at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020. It later acquired Bottles and rebranded itself to Pick n Pay asap! last August. You can earn points using your Smart Shopper card and the service also promises same-day delivery. It’s not yet available in the Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo or Mpumalanga. Then in December Woolworths launched Woolies Dash. Its customers have the option to chat with a “personal shopper” while making purchases. It has the smallest coverage and its services are only available to shoppers within a 5km radius of selected stores in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Note that each retailer has different delivery fees. The increasing competition is great news for consumers – happy shopping! 🛒

9. 22.02.2022 was too, too cool

Did you make a wish on Tuesday, otherwise referred to this week only as “Twosday”? The date was 22/02/2022 and it’s significant because it’s quite a rare occurrence. Numerically, it’s referred to as a symmetrical or a palindrome date, because it reads the same backwards and forwards. What made it even more unusual was that it was also an ambigram: it looked the same read upside down on a calculator as it did the right way up.

Numerologists and spiritualists refer to palindrome dates as an “angel number”, meant to bring “awakenings, insights, and revelations towards a higher state of mind”. 😇 Some folks used Tuesday’s date as an opportunity to remember our dearly departed Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. It may have been a rare event for most life forms, but the folks running the Twitter account for the prehistoric English monument Stonehenge (which dates back thousands of years)  won bragging rights by declaring: “Today’s palindrome date is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for you, but Stonehenge was there for 11/11/1111!  #twosday #onesday” 😂

That’s it from us at The Wrap, an award-winning product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾‍♀ 

The Wrap is sponsored by explain’s agency division. We specialise in content marketing for purpose-driven organisations, often with a pan-African reach. Mail info@explain.co.za for a quote. 

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_Till next time, goodbye from the team_ ✌🏽